Galileo Under the Hammer (In a Good Way This Time)

In 1638, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) published what would be his final work, Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche Intorno a Due Nuove Scienze, (Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations Relating to Two New Sciences).

As most people already know, Galileo was a true polymath with extensive experience in astronomy, mathematics, physics, engineering, and philosophy. His role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century is celebrated with good reason.

Because of his championing of Copernicus and heliocentrism, he was something of a target for religious authorities. By the time …Two New Sciences was published in 1638, Galileo had been under house arrest for several years, having been investigated by the Roman Inquisition in 1615.

Their conclusion was that his support of heliocentrism was ‘foolish and absurd, and formally heretical.’

Pierre Bergé & Associés

He made things worse for himself when he published Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Worlds Systems (1632), in which he appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII. The trouble with this was that both Urban and the Jesuits had been supportive of Galileo up to this point. Their support, of course, ceased.

Further, Galileo was suspected of heresy, and the book was placed on the church’s Index of Forbidden Books, where it remained until 1835. In fact, all of Galileo’s writings were essentially banned in many Catholic countries.

As for …Two New Sciences, it is widely considered the first physics textbook and is found on the list of the fifty most valuable scientific documents of all time.

Written while under house arrest, and dedicated to the French Ambassador to the Holy See, it was to be his last major published work and essentially recounted his work in physics over the last thirty years.

Its significance is found in the mathematical analysis experiment regarding problems in mechanics and dynamics.

Credit: Pierre Bergé & Associés

Original copies are rare to find in the market, yet on April 26, 2017, a copy went under the auction hammer in Paris at the firm Pierre Bergé & Associés, with an estimated range of €700,000 and €900,000.

This edition, published in Leiden, was dedicated before being sent to François de Noailles, Comte d’Ayen (1584-1645).

It is presumed that it was bound by Le Gascon, judging by the style of some of his other bindings of the era. It is with full Moroccan red leather boards, tooled with gold, and with marbled pastedowns.

It remains a stunning and obviously rare edition. It realized €727,919 inclusive of fees.

See the original auction listing here.


  1. There is when the tension between science and faith reached a breaking point, and the situation became a symbol of a a long lasting crisis, that until there saw the argument of faith prevail, and that is still there somehow… despite all the evidences (but they appeal to scientific mentality only). What should not be underestimate is the will of people of faith to suppress free thinking and scientific progress, it is still there, and it could kill entire civilizations (as it already did in Europe, and it does now in Middle East).


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